How do I get the correct exposure for birds

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636
Name
Nick
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#1
Hey guys I’m using a 550D, so I’m taking photos in AV mode I believe to get the highest shutter speeds I can without ruining the image, but sometimes the exposure can be quite off and when I edit there’s loads of noise :(

So I’m wondering how to get the exposure right because with bird photography you don’t really get chance to take a photo, see that it’s under exposed change it then take another photo, so just wondering if there’s any tips out there?

Thanks
Chilt
 
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4,715
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Mike
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#2
There's a good chance I'll get some stick for this, but here goes...

Learn to use manual mode and try and avoid trying to shoot everything that moves!

Try and concentrate on a specific shot, be it waiting for your bird to land on a particular perch, or a seabird to come in close, or a moorland bird to pop up out of the heather. This way, you're far more likely to nail a specific shot before moving on to the next species or type of shot.

In doing so, you can prepare your exposure in advance - maybe look for a neutral mid-tone area near the perch, or take a practice shot of a distant seabird, look at the histogram, and with a little practice and experience you'll soon be able to adjust your settings accordingly.

For example, if you're down at the local lake, you can get an idea of the exposure and lock it in by taking some test shots in manual. Then decide if you're after the white swan or the black coot and make the necessary adjustments, as they will need differing exposures. Stick to getting your target bird unless something spectacular happens in front of you, and keep taking test exposures, and learn to read the histogram and use the cameras blinkies. The test exposures don't have to be close birds, but as long as they're in similar light to your intended shooting area then you stand a good chance of your shot being correctly exposed.

Once you get used to this way of working you can start to fine tune your settings to get the histogram as far over to the right as you can without blowing any highlights to give you the best possible file to work with and to minimise noise.

Its really not as difficult as it may seem, but once you're in the groove, you'll find manual will give you the most consistent results. Other modes have their place, but really try and learn manual for shooting birds

Mike
 
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Gary
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#3
Great advice from Mike. I'm no expert and take photos of anything really. That said I live close to a country park and often take an early morning walk with the camera. I've taken lots of Coot and Swan photos and have ended up shooting as Mike suggests. It seems more consistent for me.

Gaz
 
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Bazza
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#5
The heading made me smile " How do I get the correct exposure for birds"

My first thought was take off your clothes.




I used to lived in Pelsall before I moved. Try taking a trip to "www.icbp.org" (good video in the link) and get some shots of birds in flight, that is what I did. you should get plenty of practise with the number of raptors they fly twice a day.

as for setting on a camera that all depends on the amount of daylight. If in a wood taking bird photos there is a difference against open space taking bird photos. There is no set rule of you have to use this or that setting

 
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3,980
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Dave
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#6
Hey guys I’m using a 550D, so I’m taking photos in AV mode I believe to get the highest shutter speeds I can without ruining the image, but sometimes the exposure can be quite off and when I edit there’s loads of noise :(

So I’m wondering how to get the exposure right because with bird photography you don’t really get chance to take a photo, see that it’s under exposed change it then take another photo, so just wondering if there’s any tips out there?

Thanks
Chilt

In this situation the camera 'sees' a mainly light scene and adjusts the exposure accordingly. The result is a well exposed sky and the bird, which is likely to be much darker than the sky, being underexposed and too dark.

The way around this problem is to add some exposure compensation. The advice above about doing some test shots in similar lighting conditions is good. Try a few shots of trees against the sky and keep adding exposure compensation (eg +1, +2 etc) until the trees are well exposed. After a while you will get a feel for how much compensation you need.

Dave
 
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7,563
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#7
Hey guys I’m using a 550D, so I’m taking photos in AV mode I believe to get the highest shutter speeds I can without ruining the image, but sometimes the exposure can be quite off and when I edit there’s loads of noise :(

So I’m wondering how to get the exposure right because with bird photography you don’t really get chance to take a photo, see that it’s under exposed change it then take another photo, so just wondering if there’s any tips out there?

Thanks
Chilt
All the other good insights and thoughts by the other TP members above but your post implies that of review how you are approaching the matter of photographic exposure might be to your benefit?

I suggest having a look here https://fstoppers.com/education/exp...ure-shutter-speed-and-iso-work-together-72878

Understanding the way a thing works from the basic principles can aid making changes to achieve the required end results ;)

HTH
 
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606
Name
Paul
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#8
The other element is to learn how to 'pick your moment'. Not all situations have a 'right exposure' for anything more than a identifying record shot. The classic example is a soaring bird on a bright day; the sky and top of the bird are simply so much brighter than the underside that all cameras will struggle (and any post-processing fix will most likely not look great) Or a small brown bird deep in the undergrowth might be a scene so lacking in light that even the newest and best cameras can't produce a low noise image irrespective of the lens used and the camera settings.
 
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